How to Start a Successful Podcast
(For Busy Latter-day Saint Women!)
Feeling Called But Confused
I started a podcast that never saw the light of day.
In 2018 I felt called to start a podcast. I didn’t have a niche, I just knew that a podcast was what I was supposed to do. So I signed up for the (unfortunately no longer available) series of classes offered by Podcast University. I learned all the details of how to start a podcast and went to work.
The technology part was honestly the hardest– I couldn’t figure out how in the world to make GarageBand work and spent hours producing my first three episodes.
And then they disappeared.
Poof! Gone! I still have no idea where those episodes went. But I gave up. I decided that if it was this hard I must not be going in the right direction.
Fast forward to 2019 and I’m sitting in the driveline waiting for my kids to get out of elementary school. I’m listening to a lovely Come Follow, Me podcast that was about 40 minutes long and thought to myself, “Man, it would be so great if teenagers would listen to this! It would help them so much! But they’d never listen to something this long.”
I swear at that moment the roof of my car ripped off, the heavens opened, and angels sang as the thought came to my mind, “But they’d listen to something that was one minute long.”
Thus began my One Minute Scripture Study Podcast that– less than three years later– has four MILLION downloads.
But how did I get to this point? Today I want to share with you some of the BEST advice and the most important lessons I’ve learned over my career as an LDS podcaster.
Step #1: Fill a Strong Need
I think this is one of the BIGGEST things that people starting a podcast forget to do.
When you start a podcast you have to remember that you are in competition with THOUSANDS of other podcasts vying for your audience’s attention.
The easiest way to get into someone’s earbuds (especially when you’re brand new) is to take care of a need they have.
EXAMPLE: Daily scripture study has been something we’ve been told to do by prophets for ages! However many people struggle to fit it in their busy schedules. These people NEED to do scripture study, but can’t find the time. So I made a podcast that takes care of that need by overcoming the biggest roadblock in their way: lack of time.
As you consider starting a podcast, ask yourself: am I filling a need that people feel strongly? Does it keep them up at night? Do they ask friends for advice about this thing? If so, you’re onto something great!
Step #2: Find Your Purple Cow
One of the things I learned from Podcast University is that you MUST (absolutely MUST) have a purple cow!
If you were driving past a field of cows you wouldn’t think much of it. You’d see them and drive on.
But what if you saw a purple cow in the middle of the field? You’d point it out to everyone in the car, tell all your friends, and probably take a selfie with it!
Your podcast needs a purple cow to be able to stand out in a saturated market.
EXAMPLE: There are a lot of scripture study podcasts but none that offer to make it happen in just minutes. Even then, instead of promising “scripture study in a few minutes” I named by podcast with a crazy promise: One Minute Scripture Study. That is a purple cow people talk about!
So let’s say you’re starting a podcast about motherhood. How can your podcast stand out?
Your purple cow could be the length of your podcast, the format, your amazing personality. . . it can be a lot of different things but it needs to be something people TALK about!
Step #3: Be Prepared to Publish Year Round
Don’t let this step scare you, it’s just important to realize: podcasters don’t usually take months off.
If you want people to keep listening, you have to stay a part of their regular schedule.
If they know to expect an episode from you every Wednesday, then they’ll pop in their earbuds and listen every Wednesday.
But what if you skip a Wednesday? Or publish on Saturday because you forgot about it on Wednesday? Or you want to take three months off?
People won’t know what to expect from you and your listens will go down.
So while you are MORE than welcome to take personal vacations, it is most effective to batch your content ahead of time and schedule podcasts to publish even while you’re away from your microphone.
EXAMPLE: At first I recorded my podcast episodes every week. This got to be annoying so I started batching my content in advance. I now have a “writing week” where I write all my content, then I have a “recording week” where I get it all recorded and send it off to my podcast editor.
So as you consider starting a podcast figure this out: how often and when will you publish? How will you plan episodes in advance if you want to go on vacation?
Step #4: Don't Let Technology Hold You Back
My first podcast never saw the light of day.
Because the technology drove me insane enough that I gave up.
Don’t let that happen to you!
You do NOT need a fancy microphone or editing software to get started. In fact, I have gone in reverse with my technology!
I now use a gaming headset to record, use my laptop’s recording software, and just sit in my linen closet for good acoustics. It doesn’t have to be fancy!
So what do I suggest?
Let me give you the overall picture of how I produce a podcast episode.
Before You Announce Your Podcast to the World
It can be really confusing trying to figure out how to get your podcast on the air.
I’m not going to walk you through every detail, but here are the basics of what you’ll need to do:
- Double check that your podcast name isn’t already in use. It is smart to create an Instagram account with your podcast name. Even if you don’t use it, no one else can either!
- Sign up for a podcast host. This is where your podcast will live and the host will provide you with an RSS feed. (My host is Libsyn but I’ve heard great things about other hosts as well!)
- You’ll need a podcast cover which you can easily create in Canva. They have free accounts but to do really fancy stuff you’ll need to pay!
- Record at least one podcast episode (probably a trailer to let people know what to expect from your show) and upload it to your podcast host.
- Get your RSS feed from your podcast host and then submit it to all the podcast apps you want to show up on. Apple tends to take a while so you’ll want to start there. You can also submit your show to Spotify, Google Podcasts, Audible, Stitcher, and so many more!
- Wait until your show has been published on these apps to actually announce the launch of your podcast.
Planning Your First Episodes
It’s nice to have a buffer before your podcast gets started. I would suggest having up to 4 episodes recorded and scheduled to publish before you tell people your show is on the air.
As I mentioned before, I like to write out my episodes and then read them word-for-word. If you want to be more off the cuff, make sure to at least have bullet notes to keep you on track because once a mic is in your face it’s easy to go off on tangents! I know this from experience!
If you want to be super organized (like me– it’s a disease) I suggest creating two documents:
- A Google Sheet to keep track of your entire podcast. I created separate pages for each month and keep track on them of details such as: publishing date, episode number, episode topic, guest name, etc.
- A Google Doc where you write out the episode (word for word or just bullet points), your show notes, and the tags you want to add.
Recording Your Episode
Do NOT stress about the technology you have available for recording.
Below is a list of what I use to record both single episodes and interviews:
- USE HEADPHONES: for the best quality use a headphone set with a microphone (like this from Amazon)
- RECORD ONTO YOUR LAPTOP: I record directly onto my apple laptop using the included Voice Memos application and just sit in my little linen closet upstairs!
- USE A PAID SERVICE TO RECORD INTERVIEWS: When I do interviews I absolutely LOVE to use SquadCast which records the audio file for each participant separately and locally. This means that if someone’s internet glitches it doesn’t affect their audio or yours! I used to use Zoom but had so many issues with audio going out or glitching that I finally made the switch to SquadCast.
- FORMAT THE AUDIO BEFORE UPLOADING TO EDIT: I then switch my audio from .m4a format to .wav or .mp3 format using a free online audio convertor (just google this and a bunch will pop up).
- EDIT USING AUDACITY: I then import my audio into Audacity (a free software you can download) and edit from there. I attempted to use more sophisticated software and found it had so many bells and whistles that I couldn’t even figure out! Audacity is nice and simple!
- ADD YOUR INTRO/OUTRO: I add my intro and outro music to the audio file. It’s important NOT to use copyrighted music to avoid legal issues. I love using Epidemic Sound for this.
- PUBLISH TO YOUR PODCAST HOST: After you edit your episode you’ll need to publish it on your podcast hosting platform. For this I use Libsyn which has been incredibly easy to use, but there are lots of great options out there!
I hope so much this has been helpful!
If you have questions let me know and I can update this page with more information as you guys tell me what’s missing!